Despite admitting that there has already been some fallout as a result of reported missing funds from the HeadKnowles charity, co-founder Gina Knowles, who filed a lawsuit in a Florida court against her former partner, Lia Head-Rigby, insists that the organization will weather the storm.
That lawsuit alleges that Head-Rigby “helped herself” to funds raised from a GoFundMe page meant for the victims of Hurricane Dorian.
However, in a Facebook post, Head-Rigby declared, “My hands are clean.”
She added that she was “shattered”.
News of the lawsuit created widespread discussions in some circles yesterday, with some Bahamians raising questions as to whether the HeadKnowles fallout and the allegations will hurt future efforts to raise money for victims of natural disasters in The Bahamas.
Speaking to The Nassau Guardian, Knowles said, “The outpouring of support with cash or in-kind donations and volunteers has been extraordinary.
“We have had some donors who have postponed and/or delayed monetary support pending the remaining funds being retrieved, so certainly there has been some fallout since Lia made her initial split in September of 2019. However, the continued, existing and new support has been and continues to be heartwarming and ongoing.”
Knowles also said yesterday that GoFundMe has offered to donate more than $200,000.
She said a donation of $217,645 is set to be made within the next 30 days once HeadKnowles provides the crowd sourcing website with necessary documents to assist in due diligence.
News of the donation comes as HeadKnowles is embroiled in a dispute over nearly $500,000 in donated money.
The 217-page suit, which was filed on Monday in a circuit court in Orange County, alleges that Head-Rigby commenced a lifestyle of the “rich and famous” with the donated funds. The suit further claims that Head-Rigby paid herself a $120,000 per year salary from the donated funds once she cut ties from HeadKnowles in mid-September and formed Head Foundation.
Knowles told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that the “lawsuit was an end of the road decision for the foundation after we had gone through excruciatingly painful efforts to resolve the dispute with Lia but to no avail”.
According to the suit, the foundation’s GoFundMe page raised approximately $1.5 million before the campaign was closed. On September 9, 2019, Head-Rigby transferred $737,070.63 from a Bank of America account to HeadKnowles’ Bahamian Royal Bank of Canada account, which Head-Rigby and Knowles were both issued ATM cards for, the suit reads.
Head-Rigby transferred another $270,015.53 on September 16, 2019, to another HeadKnowles account.
However, despite agreeing to transfer all of the funds raised through the GoFundMe to HeadKnowles, Head-Rigby didn’t make any additional transfers, the suit claims.
“She perjured herself,” the suit reads. “Head converted funds and used them for her own purposes in violation of the Attestation 40. Head’s scheme after Hurricane Dorian struck The Bahamas was to use the good name of the plaintiff and the empathy that would be evoked for the people of The Bahamas, in order to raise funds through GFM (GoFundMe) and ultimately help herself to those raised funds that she stated were intended to go to Bahamian victims.”
The suit further claimed that Head-Rigby made “inappropriate withdrawals” from the Bahamian bank account after she transferred funds to the account “in order to avoid detection from GFM or U.S. bank authorities”.
“In fact, what happened was that Head, after her press release on September 16, 2019, and after living on the brink of poverty with a personal bank account balance of $93.79, found herself in control of a sum of money she had never seen before and seized the opportunity to commence [a] lifestyle of the ‘rich and famous’, and separate herself from the rightful possessor of those funds, the plaintiff and most importantly, the Bahamian victims of Hurricane Dorian,” the suit further claims.
Head-Rigby’s husband, Chad Rigby, along with Head’s non-profit organization, Head Foundation; liability company, Media Maven; and WePay, which facilitates GoFundMe payments, are also named as defendants in the suit.
WePay is holding $207,000 of the outstanding $493,000. Those funds had not yet been transferred to Head-Rigby’s account and were frozen following an appeal from HeadKnowles to GoFundMe.
An additional $286,000 remains outstanding.
HeadKnowles is asking the court to declare it as the rightful beneficial owner of the raised funds. It is also seeking damages from Head-Rigby and Rigby for the costs of this action, and any other relief that may be just or necessary under the circumstances.
HeadKnowles is further asking the court for injunctive relief.
“Wherefore, given the ugly nature of Head, Rigby, Head Foundation and Media Mavens’ conversion of the GFM campaign funds, the public interest is served by entering a temporary and permanent injunction for the remaining funds against Head, Rigby, Head Foundation and Media Mavens for the converted funds and for those funds to [be] deposited in the court’s registry pending the outcome of this case,” the suit claims.
HeadKnowles is also petitioning the court to enter a temporary or permanent injunction for the remaining frozen funds against WePay and for those funds to be deposited in the court’s registry pending the outcome of the case.
Knowles said yesterday that HeadKnowles expects to get through this relatively unscathed.
“We expect to continue with the good reputation we have, and thankfully, GoFundMe (GFM) has decided to donate $217,645 out of their own pocket, because of this reputation,” she said.
“Therefore, we do not anticipate anything but positive support as we continue on our mission of helping the victims of Hurricane Dorian.”
She added that HeadKnowles is determined to continue to offer assistance to hurricane victims.
“HKF (HeadKnowles Foundation) will continue to work closely with the captains on the ground, who directly assist the evacuees and other organizations who are working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of so many who have lost so very much,” she added.
“We will continue to send relief aid and supplies, along with working on the rebuilding stage for as long as our donors are able and willing to support these efforts. We remain forever grateful to the outpouring of love and care, funds and support.”